False Cancer Diagnosis Leads to Malpractice Suit; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

September 24, 2018

In This Article

A 'Week of Hell' for a Patient and His Family

A Missouri man whose primary care doctors mistakenly told him that he had terminal cancer is suing them for causing him and his family unnecessary pain and suffering, a story in the Kansas City Star, among other news sites, says.[1]

In January 2017, Pasquale Michael Fatino was suffering from flulike muscle aches and decided to make an appointment to see his primary care physician in Leawood, Kansas. The physician was traveling that day, however, so Fatino saw the practice's founder, who ordered CT scans. Later that day, Fatima's primary care physician called him with awful news: The scans revealed that he had terminal cancer of the lungs and liver.

Fatino was devastated—and so was his family. Immediately, he began putting his affairs in order and making funeral arrangements. He also returned the following day to his physician's office, where a third doctor reiterated the terminal cancer diagnosis.

To further confirm his diagnosis, Fatino underwent a painful chest biopsy, which was sent to a specialist at the University of Kansas Cancer Center for review. To Fatino's utter shock, the specialist there told him that he didn't have cancer but most likely sarcoidosis, the growth of tiny collections of inflammatory cells in different parts of the body, which could be treated with a common steroid.

Fatima's physician left a message on Fatino's answering machine, echoing the information in the report and apologizing for putting his patient through "at least a week of hell."

Fatino was relieved but also very angry.

"When they're talking, 'Hey, I'm going to deliver a cancer diagnosis,' they need to be absolutely sure," he says.

Still, Fatino's claim against the doctors isn't necessarily a slam dunk.

According to at least one legal specialist quoted by the Kansas City Star, "Simply because the doctor's diagnosis later turned out to be incorrect does not necessarily mean the doctor breached the professional standard of care, or behaved unreasonably under the circumstances." That's because "some cancers can be quite difficult to detect or distinguish at various stages, and some benign conditions like cysts can sometimes reasonably be mistaken for cancer."

Whether the defendants prevail in Fatino's case remains to be seen. Meanwhile, there was no indication in the news report when or if his suit would move forward.

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